How to Buy Quality Clothes Without Spending a Fortune


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Clothing is an often overlooked expense when planning a budget, but pretty much everyone has to spend some money on clothes for work, off hours, and social occasions. Whether you are a trial attorney who needs a wardrobe full of quality suits or a landscaper who gets good and muddy, there are ways to buy clothing without spending a fortune.

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Understand What Goes Into Retail Pricing

Fashion brands establish pricing on a cost-per-unit basis. The final retail price is set by factoring in various expenses and business strategies, such as manufacturing and material costs and marketing and branding expenses.

Manufacturing Costs

The cost of raw materials, labor, packaging, and shipping are obvious factors that determine the price of clothing. But pricing is more nuanced than that. Popular brands or high-end brand names will set higher prices for their products on the assumption that they offer higher quality and better designs. There are also marketing costs to consider.

Brand Reputation

Whether a brand is perceived as a luxury brand, like Versace, or a value brand, like those sold at big box stores, will play a large part in pricing. For example, LuluLemon is a popular, in-demand brand that can price its clothing at the higher end of the scale. Sometimes a popular in-demand brand will have to slash its prices because it no longer holds the prestige it once did.

Supply and Demand

Supply and demand is a huge factor affecting the final price of a product. If a style, product, or brand is in demand, retailers can mark up the prices substantially. The fact that there is not enough to go around means people will likely pay more. (Inflation can be part of this equation, too.)

However, if the supply exceeds demand, retailers will have to drop the price to try to encourage sales so they are not left with inventory they cannot sell.

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The Distribution Chain

Another factor in the price of clothing is the distribution chain. Some brands manufacture their own clothing and sell exclusively through their own retail outlets, which can help them keep the price lower. Warby Parker is an example of a retail brand that sells exclusively through their own retail outlets and website.

This business model means fewer add-on costs for the consumer. However, most brands sell through selected independent retailers who add on their own margin. Retailers set the final price by implementing their own desired markups, as well as any subsequent promotions and discounts to ensure they aren’t left with inventory.


Some fashions are in demand for a season only and can be priced high until they lose their popularity. At that point, the price will drop or clothes are sold in a clearance sale as retailers try to get rid of old inventory.

You can save money by buying clothes in the off-season or when they are sold on clearance. There are also other ways to make sure you’re not blowing all of your budget on clothes.

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Make Use of Coupons

Coupons are a sales strategy for retailers, but they also benefit the consumer. Consumers can shop online for less using coupons and other sales discounts. The buyer inputs a coupon code when they check out, and that code initiates a discount on the price.

Coupons can be found on many websites such as Saving Says, RetailMeNot, and SlickDeals. Also, many brands offer a discount if you sign up for their email list.

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Buy Clothing from Consignment Stores and Thrift Shops

Buying second-hand clothes is one way to find quality clothes while sticking to a budget. Thrift shops and websites that sell pre-owned clothing are growing in popularity, particularly because of consumer interest in sustainable practices and brands that support the environment.

ThredUp is a popular online consignment and thrift store where consumers can buy and sell high-quality secondhand clothes. Other ideas for where to buy good quality clothes for less include ASOS Marketplace, Buffalo Exchange, Depop, Etsy, Poshmark, and Vinted.

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Buy During the Off-Season

Avoid buying on impulse by purchasing clothing in the off-season when you can find quality items on sale. Retailers want to get rid of stock when products are not in season. For example, few people are looking to buy ski gear in the height of spring or summer. Because there may be more supply than demand for ski gear at that time, retailers will reduce the price and sell the clothing at a discount.

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Look for Clearance Sales

Fashion trends typically last one season, and then new styles and products appear on the market. Retailers may find themselves with too much inventory going into a new season. To sell the inventory and not lose too much money, they will sell items in clearance sales, often with slashed prices.

Also, certain retailers are known for having regular sales cycles, such as the Gap and Old Navy. These can be good resources for where to buy good quality clothes on sale.

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Consider Alternative Fabrics and Materials

Why does one t-shirt cost $50 and another $15? It could be because the $50 t-shirt has better quality fabric. Similarly, a pair of boots made of leather will be more expensive than a pair made of synthetic leather. In some cases, you might pay more for an item of clothing made of more durable or breathable materials. Investment pieces may be made of finer materials and crafted with more care to last longer.

However, if an item is serving a short-term fashion need, the quality of materials may be less important.

Also, less pricey synthetic materials may get a bad rap. For example, faux leather may be considered an unsuitable material for a shoe because it is unbreathable and less durable. Polyester is often compared to silk and is lambasted for not being “natural.” However, faux leather footwear may appeal to vegans, and polyester blouses last a lot longer than their silk counterparts. So, don’t discount alternatives.

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See Before You Buy

If you do opt for the less expensive option, you might want to see the item before you buy it. If the item is too cheap and flimsy, it won’t last long. Check the seams and the hems to see if the stitching is acceptable, and check that the zip works. Buying a reasonably priced item of clothing is one thing, but there is such a thing as too cheap.”

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Buy Less, Buy Better

Buying fewer clothes will save you money, so you might think about items to save up for, perhaps one or two quality pieces that will last the test of time. You can pair those quality and timeless pieces with other less expensive items. For example, a couple of quality suits for work can be paired with a number of blouses or shirts that come from a mid-range retailer. You can also build a wardrobe based on a basic color, like black or blue, so that all of your clothes can be mixed and matched.

Note: Also remember to note care labels when purchasing clothes. Those that say “Dry clean only” mean they will cost you more over their life in cleaning than those that can go in the washer or be hand-laundered at home.

Recommended Brands

Some mid-price quality fashion brands recommended by experts are COS, Everlane, H&M, Land’s End, LL Bean, and Uniqlo.

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The Takeaway

Dressing well does not have to be a wallet-busting affair if you know where to buy quality clothes and which strategies to follow. In some cases, it is better to pay more for an item that will be durable and serve its purpose rather than to buy something cheap and experience frustration when it doesn’t wear well. However, even then, you can find discounts by using coupons, searching for clearance sales, buying second hand, or buying off season.

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